PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – Oregon’s Wildlife Services director illegally issued permits allowing ranchers to kill endangered gray wolves, even though radio collars on several members of Oregon’s only gray wolf pack show that the pack was nowhere near the June killing of six cattle calves.
After killing two gray wolves last year, the wildlife service plans to kill two more of the 12 wolves known to exist in Oregon, Hells Canyon Preservation Council claims in Federal Court.
Oregon’s only gray wolf pack, named the Imnaha pack, has lived in northeastern Oregon since January 2008, when a female wolf from Idaho wearing a radio collar crossed the Snake River and established a 10-wolf pack, according to the complaint.
The members of the Imnaha pack are the first wolves to live and reproduce in Oregon since their numbers were decimated in the 1940s.
After the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife determined that wolves had killed six cattle calves in northeastern Oregon in May and June of this year, it issued seven permits allowing ranchers to kill wolves “caught in the act” of killing livestock, the Preservation Council claims.
Those permits were in accordance with phase one of the Oregon Wolf Conservation Plan, which applies when there are four or less breeding pairs in the eastern half of the state.
However, the department also authorized Wildlife Services to track and kill two wolves from the Imnaha pack, even though information from the pack’s radio collars showed that they were in the mountains of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest when the deaths occurred on ranches in the Wallowa Valley.
Under phase one of the plan, the only other condition allowing the department to kill wolves is in response to “chronic depredation,” according to the complaint.
The department has extended the permits through the end of August, despite a lack of evidence that the wolves are in the valley and even though there have been no more livestock deaths attributed to wolves in the past month, the lawsuit states.
The Wildlife Service already killed two gray wolves unrelated to the Imnaha pack last year, the Preservation Council claims. If it is successful in killing two juvenile members of the Imnaha pack, it will have killed four of the 12 wolves in Oregon, according to the complaint.
Hell’s Canyon Preservation Council, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Oregon Wild sued David Williams, Oregon Wildlife Services director and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service demand a declaration that Wildlife services violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing the permits without preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or and Environmental Assessment. Plaintiffs are represented by Daniel Kruse with Cascadia Wildlands and Jennifer Schwartz with Hells Canyon Preservation Council.